SHETLAND Islands Council’s controversial former chief executive David Clark and his wife Judith have won an apology from the tabloid newspaper The Scottish Sun.
On Wednesday the paper apologised for an article it published on the couple’s April wedding titled You Dirty Rat, which repeated allegations about Mr Clark’s period in the isles that ended two years ago. The story has been taken off the paper’s website.
Mr Clark’s brief employment at the helm of the SIC caused a stir after he was accused of threatening councillor Jonathan Wills with violence, of drinking alcohol in his office with a consultant and abolishing the post of his assistant chief executive.
He also drew attention when he became romantically involved with Shetland businesswoman Judith Miller, whose company Judane was negotiating a loan settlement with the Shetland Development Trust.
Even though Mr Clark was found guilty of no wrongdoing, he left his post after just nine months with a pay off worth more than £250,000, which caused further outcry and a public protest at Lerwick’s Market Cross.
The ill feeling within the council at the time led local government watchdog The Accounts Commission to launch a public inquiry in 2010 that led to major structural changes within the authority driven by new chief executive Alistair Buchan, currently on secondment from Orkney.
Mr Clark’s departure in early 2010 came shortly after the first of several articles by chief reporter Nick Sharpe that appeared in The Scottish Sun, entitled “The council love cheat, the mistress and £1m of public cash”.
After the most recent article, the fifth to appear in the tabloid, Mr Clark and his wife submitted a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.
On Wednesday The Scottish Sun published the following apology:
“DAVID CLARK AND JUDITH MILLER-CLARK
On 15th May 2012, we published an article about Mr David Clark and Mrs Miller-Clark, in which we repeated several accusations made against them. We accept that this article contained several inaccuracies relating to accusations against the couple. Investigations carried out by a number of bodies, including the police and Audit Scotland, found no evidence of wrongdoing. We apologise for any distress the article caused.”
Speaking from his home near Motherwell this week, Mr Clark said: “The Scottish Sun has admitted their reporting was inaccurate. They have apologised. We have accepted their apology in good faith.”
He added: “In light of the recent charges brought against a former editor and former chief reporter of The Sun, it is in the public interest to know how the editor of the Scottish Sun will deal with a chief reporter responsible for inaccurate reporting.
“The Scottish Sun has made clear that disciplinary matters are strictly the business of News International… We have no further comment to make on this at present.”
When contacted, the newspaper said that they had no further comment to make.
Mr Clark said the offending article contained numerous inaccuracies about his time in Shetland and his relationship and marriage to Judith.
He said that he had also complained to the PCC about harassment by journalists and had placed a sign outside his home saying ‘No Dogs OR SUN Reporters’.
“When you ask the press not to come to your house they have got an obligation not to, and in fact this particular reporter had had a desist request made to him by the Press Complaints Commission, which he ignored.”
When asked if he felt the newspaper was running a vendetta against him and his wife, he said: “I think anyone that read those stories and the ones that are still there would find it hard to form a view otherwise.”
The couple now live in an apartment at Dalzell Castle, a baronial mansion whose origins date back to the 15th century, where they had moved “to get some privacy”.
Since leaving Shetland Islands Council he has returned to his former career in project management working in renewable energy with E.ON Microgeneration and social housing for Basildon Borough Council, east of London.